These items are a preview of my Roundup column that will appear in the next issue of Our Schools, Our Selves, the education journal of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
The brain--by Pearson
Brain research holds out the hope that it will have implications for identifying effective teaching practices. But beware.
An article in the Times Education Supplement suggests a filter to use: "When the entrepreneur begins to talk about the brain and how easily students can learn using their newfangled technique and doesn't show evidence in terms of improved student achievement, that individual should be shown the door."
One program, Cogmed, founded by a Swedish neuroscience professor, claims to improve working memory and claims backing from published studies. A group of psychologists, however, examined the research and said "The only unequivocal statement made is that Cogmed will improve performance on tasks that resemble Cogmed training."
Cogmed has been purchased from the professor by Pearson as part of its rapidly expanding stable of education products.
Correct the empathy deficit
Reading posts on social media can be toxic. An Australian group has developed an approach to changing the online environment by calling on people to THINK before they post on social media.
THINK stands for: is it True; is it Helpful; is it Inspiring; is it Necessary; is it Kind.
Teaching in a fishbowl
That is how the Manitoba Teachers' Society has described the public expectations of teachers. MTS staff writing in their newsletter say that using Facebook or other social media "expand their fishbowl exponentially."
They report that a teacher faced discipline for posting a video of students working in their science lab without the knowledge of the students that they were being videoed, nor did they have parent permission to post the video. The teacher received a letter with a very prescriptive process for future online activity and posting.
Social media inoculation against corporate GERM (Global Education Reform Movement)
An organization to counter the corporate takeover of public education plans to challenge the GERM-supporting organizations in vying for school board seats. Diane Ravich has launched a Network for Public Education to support candidates against high-stakes testing and the privatizing of public schools.
Ravich said the Network "will give voice to the millions of parents, educators, and other citizens who are fed up with corporate-style reform." She notes that "wealthy individuals are pouring unprecedented amounts of money into state and local school board races, often into places where they do not reside, to elect candidates intent on undermining and privatizing our public schools."
The Network doesn't have deep pockets, but will put a "seal of approval" on candidates and ask others to donate to them. They intend to use the power of social media to create a national movement.
The network calls for broad-minded public school curriculums that include arts, sciences, foreign languages and physical education; better financing for schools; more respect for teachers; and the "appropriate use of testing to help students and teachers, not to punish or reward students, teachers, principals, or to close schools," Ravich said.